My second baby is 2 weeks old today. That means I am past the real danger zone for a repeat episode and, although there is still a heightened risk until he is 6 weeks old, I honestly can't see there being any chance of me getting ill again as everything is just so different and amazing this time around. How it should and could have been with my first baby.
I am looking at my son and feeling that initial bonding which I missed out on with my little girl and I'm crying my eyes out; tears of self pity for me for what happened 2.5yrs ago (as I can now see how completely avoidable it would have been if the proper support was in place and I'd had any knowledge/insight into this awful illness), sadness for my daughter having to suffer (although I appreciate she won't remember it, but for me the deprivation she was subjected to as a result of my being ill is heart breaking) and be without "me" for so long as a result of my illness and also tears of joy for the amazing experience I am having with my son. This is how motherhood should feel.
When my tears subside I then feel very angry at the terrible service I received from the medical "professionals" back in 2012, who failed to spot or act on all the warning signs, didn't educate or counsel me or my partner adequately (or at all really) before, during or after the whole ordeal, kept me from my daughter for 2 weeks while I was sectioned on an acute ward (the most terrifying and confusing time of my life), failed to get me to a MBU sooner (despite that being perfectly feasible as when I did finally get there, they commented how well I was and asked why I hadn't been transferred sooner as they'd had a bed!!! Answer, ignorance of the staff in the acute ward, delays with paperwork and the fact I was so ill & confused that I had no idea it was an option I could/should have been pushing for).
All of this resulted in me being unwell for many months, when I firmly believe that, had I received better care earlier, the situation could have been so very different. Even if my episode couldn't have been avoided, it certainly could have been managed a millions times better resulting in no separation from my newborn (which caused me to completely tip over the edge as I had no idea what was going on and ripping me from my baby was the very worst thing to do, given a mother's primal urge to care for her young), perhaps a shorter stay in a MBU or even treatment at home and finally the correct medication (if necessary at all as arguably it wouldn't have been with the proper/earlier intervention and care!) to perhaps avoid my having had to give up the established breastfeeding I'd just got in place after my daughter's rocky start being in SCBU. I might then have avoided the months of crippling depression and anxiety, which followed my episode and was basically ignored by the useless EIP service that visited me at home once I left the MBU. Despite my repeat requests for an antidepressant, I didn't get my medication changed until I moved to a different NHS area, where I was immediately referred to a perinatal psychiatrist (the word perinatal hadn't been mentioned to me at all where I'd lived previously!) and given the amazing support which helped me then make the final journey from the dark cloud and back to being me
It took over a year to reach that stage, a year of my daughter's life I will never get back, where I couldn't enjoy her and was a zombie going through the motions of caring for her needs when I mainly just wanted to stay in bed and hide from the world.
I know you can't change the past, and I am very much looking to the future, but they should be held accountable. Even when I tried to pursue giving them feedback/making a complaint when I felt suitably recovered, I was ignored and told I was unable to pursue it because it was over 12 months ago! I think it is disgusting that there is such disparity in the level of perinatal service offered across the country. I just hope that the apparent heightened awareness of perinatal mental health continues and that more mothers are able to access better services to help them, rather than suffer any level of what I had to endure, which I would not wish on anyone.
On a positive final note I would like to say that it is with great thanks to all the amazing support I have received this time around from friends, family, others on this forum, medical professionals and not forgetting Prof. Ian Jones, that I am confident I will be able to remain well following the birth of my son. After a slightly tricky start, I have managed to establish breastfeeding. I am getting 5/6hrs sleep a night. I have not needed to take any medication, although I have quetiapine 25mg in my drawer to take PRN to help me sleep if necessary (and which I can continue to breastfeed while taking) but I'm so happy and relaxed that I am not having any trouble sleeping - when my little man lets me! So to all of you out there who might be considering a second baby but are, understandably, concerned about a repeat episode, it most definitely can be done with the right support in place. If anyone wants to message me to ask any questions/advice then I will be happy to offer my perspective as I am passionate about trying to help others avoid this illness, if possible.
Apologies for the length of this post. I hope others may find it as useful as I have found it cathartic writing it all down. I also hope the photo I am attaching does not offend, but I'm just so bloody proud of myself!
Much love to all of us PP survivors - we are amazing! xx